The Santa Barbara law firm of Christman Kelley & Clarke recently filed an antitrust lawsuit in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on behalf of the local family farmers, Plaintiffs Jeff Hendrickson and wife Roxanne Renner of Santa Rita Flower Farms, against Defendants, the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Association (“SBCFMA”), its President, Mollie Gean, and Manager, Sam Edelman, alleging that the Defendants are violating California’s antitrust and unfair business practice laws.
The SBCFMA has operated farmers markets in Santa Barbara County for almost 30 years. It claims to, according to its own website, “help promote local family farmers, and protect[ing] the environment by sustaining and restoring surrounding Santa Barbara County greenbelt areas”, “continues working diligently to bring the freshest and most nutritious produce our rich local agricultural land has to offer …”, and “Each week the farmers in the marketplace display a colorful bounty of agricultural products grown right in our backyard.”
Plaintiffs allege these claims are, in part, false and misleading because the SBCFMA favors certain members of the SBCFMA, often larger, corporate, and out-of-county based farmers, who are on the SBCFMA’s Board of Supervisors, or personally/financially associated with the Board, thereby foreclosing smaller, and/or local independent farmers, from full and equal access to the most lucrative markets like the Saturday Downtown Market and also unlawfully increasing the prices paid by consumers and eliminating choice for agricultural products at the markets.
“The whole idea of a local farmers market is to promote local family farms, not larger out-of-county corporate farms. The local guys should at least be allowed a level playing field at their own markets”, stated attorney Matthew Da Vega of Christman Kelley & Clarke, PC, lead partner on the matter. “When seven of the nine Board Supervisors and the President, and over half of the SBCFMA’s 130 members, are from outside the county, something just doesn’t seem right”, stated attorney and fellow Christman Kelley & Clarke partner Matthew Fisher. In fact a number of the Board Supervisors are from as far away as Tulare and Riverside County.
Access a copy of the First Amended Complaint here.
See Santa Barbara Independent Stories:
December 20, 2012 – Farmers Grab Their Pitchforks
January 31, 2013 – Farmers Market Harvests Discontent
See Santa Maria Times Stories:
December 21, 2012 – Lompoc Growers Sue Farmers Market
January 28, 2013 – Buellton, Goleta Growers Join Lawsuit
See Santa Barbara News-Press Stories:
January 26, 2013 – Growers Join Antitrust Lawsuit Against Farmers Market